Showing posts with label freedom of the press. Show all posts
Showing posts with label freedom of the press. Show all posts

Sunday, June 5, 2022

What George Orwell Has to Say About Words

 


What George Orwell Has To Say About It

Freedom of the Press and Words Count
 
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson
 
You may know me as “The Frugal Book Promoter”…or novelist. . .or poet. But because this year is shaping up to be an especially difficult year worldwide, maybe you won’t mind if I stray a bit from my usual topics to talk to you about topics that that have been in the news recently—namely freedom of the press and the importance of words?
 
Not long in the past during the height of the Covid pandemic, the White House issued a list of words the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shouldn’t use. That was unprecedented. It bothered me then and it bothers me even more now that Covid keeps reoccurring but some of the other major problems we face have exacerbated. We are lucky that as writers it has been relatively easy to isolate ourselves. That has made me even more appreciative of the importance of words in my life and, I hope, has done the same for you..
 
The LA Times (Tuesday, Jan 16, 2020 page B2) used this as a lead for the story on this repression of words, all the more surprising because the United States is known for its respect for words, both spoken and written:
 
“’It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.’ George Orwell writes
in the fifth chapter of his dystopian novel, 1985.”
 
I love the novel the Times chose to quote, but I have always been too optimistic to give its dystopian theme much credence. But here we are with four public health experts from Emory University in Atlanta saying that if the CDC actually obeys the White House order to avoid certain words and phrases and that by doing so, it “squanders [the agency’s] limited resources.” Other agencies were also “forbidden” to use words like “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science based.” In some cases, the administration’s budget office suggested alternative terms which is a subtle way of saying they are not only telling them what words to avoid, but telling us what words they would like to them to use. I can only hope that this administration will return to honor the constitution’s freedom of speech and press intentions.
 
Then in a recent Sierra Club magazine (sources do count for us writers!), I learn that the US climate office was told not to use the terms “climate change,” “emissions reduction,” or “Paris agreement.” Seems someone was trying to control what we write about, maybe trying to control how we think.
 
Times also reported that in addition to our concepts of free speech and free press, gagging like this violates The Plain Writing Act of 2010 that requires all federal agencies “improve the effectiveness and accountability to the public by promoting clear Government communication that the public can understand and use.”
 
We writers should be thankful for that “plain writing” encouragement! But as writers, we should all be worried—even on the lookout—for anything that limits our use of words.
 
As an example, we’ve been encouraged to use only Merry Christmas as a holiday greeting for decades. I’d hate to lose alternative greetings. As a courtesy, I’ve always reserved Merry Christmas for people I know to be Christian, Happy Hanukkah for those I know to be Jewish. Have a great Kwanza for the black people I know celebrate it but not those for whom I am unsure. Ramadan? Well, I’ve never had occasion to use it (sorry!), but if I did I would be equally careful to abide by the traditions of the person involved.
 
There are others, but generally, “Happy holidays,” is a polite way to be inclusive when we don’t know the situations or do know that in a diverse population I may be addressing a few people who are members of each group with a few atheists to boot. That is a very small example of how important words are, and how important it is we have access to all the ones we find in a dictionary (and some we don’t). For clarity. So that we can. . . ahem, obey the Plain Writing Act. Now there’s a government proclamation I can get my teeth, molars, and incisors into!
 
Before I assure that I don’t get too blasé, I occasionally revisit the date that it was written. 2010! Perhaps we need a reminder of the importance of clarity in our communication more often than we think we should. Is it time again? And can we write clearly if words—precious words that came about presumably because they served a purpose—are denied us? And do we pay no attention when other entities use words to color the way we think. That will always be with us. It is part of the price we pay for free speech issues. We can refuse to be taken in by it. Always on the lookout.

 

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the author of the multi award-winning series of HowToDoItFrugally books for writers including USA Book News’ winner The Frugal Book Promoter now in its third edition from Victor Volkman’s Modern History Press and The Frugal Editor scheduled for release in its third edition in 2022. An instructor for UCLA Extension's renowned Writers Program for nearly a decade, she believes in entering (and shouting out!) contests and anthologies as an excellent way to separate our writing from the hundreds of thousands of books that get published each year. Two of her favorite awards are Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment given by members of the California Legislature and “Women Who Make Life Happen,” given by the Pasadena Weekly newspaper. She is also an award-winning poet and novelist and she loves passing along the tricks of the trade she learned from marketing those so-called hard-to-promote genres. She recommends Dr. Frank Lutz’s Words that Work to her writing friends and those who want to understand more about the power of words-both the positives and negatives. Learn more and find tons of free resources on her website at https://HowToDoItFrugally.com.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Freedom of the Press Starting with Words


By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

You may be wondering why The Frugal Book Promoter would be straying from topics like editing and book marketing to something like freedom of the press and the importance of words. Well, because without the former, a huge percentage of us would be out of work and others would be severely limited in the topics we choose to write about. And when our government starts limiting the words we may use in official documents, that is the beginning of censorship we writers should take very seriousl

And that is just what is happening.

Well, a couple of months ago the White House issued a list of words the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shouldn’t use. It bothered me then and it bothers me even more now that we just experienced a near epidemic of flu in this country! (My husband and I are both part of that epidemic. Neither of us has had the flu or a cold for over 40 years and this one has been a doozy!)

TheLA Times(Tuesday, Jan 16, page B2) used this as a lead for the story:
“’It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.’ George Orwell writes in the fifth chapter of his dystopian novel, 1985.”

I love the novel the Times chose to quote, but I have always been too optimistic to give its dystopian theme much credence. But here we are with four public health experts from Emory University in Atlanta saying that if the CDC actually obeys the recent White House order to avoid certain words and phrases it would “squander [the agency’s] limited resources.” Other agencies were also “forbidden” to use words like “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science based.” In some cases, the administration’s budget office suggested alternative terms.  And only yesterday I read that the word “abortion” is next. Can you imagine how many words might be needed for that if we didn’t have that one?  Can you imagine how much more disinformation might swirl around the topic is we can’t use we (or our government) can use the word?

Then in a recent Sierra Club magazine (sources docount for us writers!), I learn that the US climate office was told not to use the terms “climate change,” “emissions reduction,” or “Paris agreement.” Seems someone is trying to control what we write about. Or just make it hard for us to do our jobs.

We should be as concerned about limiting the words we can use as we are about the books we can read or about copyright issues.

These commandments from the Trump administration sound like a violation of both freedom of speech and freedom of the press (the government does publish tons and tons of stuff!) to me. Times also reported that gagging like this also violates The Plain Writing Act of 2010 that requires all federal agencies “improve the effectiveness and accountability to the public by promoting clear Government communication that the public can understand and use.”

We writers should be thankful for that “plain writing” encouragement! Still, too few in the government are paying attention to it. Luckily, the CDC seems to be ignoring these new guidelines limiting the words our agencies can use for now. But as writers, we should all be worried—even on the lookout—for anything that limits our use of words.

As an example, we’ve been encouraged to use only Merry Christmas as a holiday greeting for decades. I’d hate to lose alternative greetings. As a courtesy, I’ve always reserved Merry Christmas for people I know to be Christian, Happy Hanukkah for those I know to be Jewish. Have a great Kwanzaa for the black people I know celebrate it. Ramadan? Well, I’ve never had occasion to use it (sorry!), but if I did I would be equally careful to abide by the traditions of the person involved.W

There are others, but generally, “Happy holidays,” is a polite way to be inclusive when we don’t know the situations or do know that in a diverse population I may be addressing a few people who are members of each group with a few atheists to boot. That is a very small example of how important words are, and how important it is we have access to all the ones we find in a dictionary (and some we don’t). For clarity. So that we can. . . ahem, obey the Plain Writing Act. Now there’s a government proclamation I can get my teeth, molars, and incisors into! Before you get too blasé, be sure to revisit the date that it was written! 2010! 

Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. The books in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers have won multiple awards. That series includes both the first and second editions of The Frugal Book Promoterand The Frugal Editorwon awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award. How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethicallyis the newest book in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers.

Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of “Fourteen San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts. 
                  


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